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Friday, December 2, 2022

The Book Party That Hua Hsu So Richly Deserves to Attend

The kind of social ritual that had been largely absent from the city’s calendar ever since the pandemic began was the blowout book party, which took place on Wednesday night at Pioneer Works, a sprawling art factory in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. There were approximately 400 literary types that attended the event.

The publication of Hua Hsu’s first book, “Stay True,” a coming-of-age memoir set in the 1990s and detailing the author’s troubled connection with a Japanese American frat boy called Ken, was being celebrated by Hua Hsu, a staff writer for The New Yorker. New York’s literary community turned out appropriately, along with characters from every phase of Mr. Hsu’s life, since it is widely considered to be one of the novels that people are most looking forward to reading this season.

The editors from Pitchfork, GQ, and The New Yorker were seen drinking champagne out of plastic cups while standing close to a concession stand selling copies of the book. They also gladly accepted matchbooks from Mr. Hsu’s young son as part of a guerrilla marketing campaign that also included T-shirts, cassettes, and zines.

One of the first people to arrive was Jade Wong-Baxter, an agent who had been Mr. Hsu’s student at Vassar College, where he had been an associate professor up until last year. Photographs were taken of Joseph Monish Patel, who is one of the producers of “Summer of Soul.” Another one of the school’s alums, Elliot Kleinman, was a member of the band Earth Dad and covered Nirvana songs. Dustin Yellin, the creator of Pioneer Works, had a conversation with the author Emma Cline, who was sporting a bow in her hair at the time.

Mr. Hsu, who was dressed in a button-down shirt with an ombre pattern and hiking sneakers, took a look around the room and referred to the attendees as “a true cross-section” of the people in his life. These individuals included members of his family, friends from college, colleagues, former students, and members of his quarantine pod.

At eight o’clock in the evening, he joined the stage for a talk with Lucy Sante, a historian and cultural critic based in New York. The topic of the debate was how to evoke memories through ephemera, as well as rediscovering his youthful self and writing techniques.

There were a lot of Mr. Hsu’s previous students waiting in line, including Harrison Gable and Griffin Wells, both of whom are 22 years old and first met in Mr. Hsu’s Asian American literature class. Mr. Gable referred to his old instructor as “the most awesome person in the world.”

Roxy Chang, an aspiring author who was now working on the memoir of her mother, was also waiting in line. She had a lot of inquiries about the manner in which he wrote.

Even the editors, agents, and publishing executives who had been instrumental in turning Mr. Hsu into a literary superstar did not seek for his signature. Chris Parris-Lamb, Mr. Hsu’s agent at the Gernert Company, was sipping a Modelo while conversing with Mr. Hsu in the manicured courtyard that had a campfire while they were gathered around it. “The bulk of publishers turned the book down,” he said.

Willing Davidson, Mr. Hsu’s editor at The New Yorker, and Thomas Gebremedhin, the senior vice president and executive editor of Doubleday, joined Mr. Parris-Lamb in the discussion. Mr. Gebremedhin said that they were in the thick of the lockdown when they received the document. He said, “I was really lonely; I was quite sad; and I was extremely afraid.” He went on to say that Mr. Hsu’s voice was “a guiding light.”

After signing around 200 copies, Mr. Hsu eventually laid down his pen at 11 o’clock at night and went to the after-party being held at the San Pedro Inn just down the street.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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